Thursday, June 27, 2013

Aunt Betsy, tear down this wall

The weekend of Little Man's birthday party, one of Beau's sisters came to town to check out our money pit West Virginia house, cuddle our little love bug, celebrate a huge milestone birthday, and visit with her favorite brother and sister-in-law.

Little did Betsy know, we'd put her to work. Her visit with us, though not relaxing on her part, was incredibly helpful to us on so many levels. While Beau and I were staining the siding, she took Little Man on long walks to check out the wildlife and get him away from the fumes. She was also so, so, so incredibly helpful getting ready for Little Man's party. (She got to use the helium tank to blow up the balloons, among many other jobs! We sure do know how to spoil a gal.)

She also got to try her hand at demolition.

I think it was a first for her.

And I definitely think she liked it!

From far away, the stone fireplace looks to be the only redeeming item in the living room. (The bed was the old owner's bed. It has since moved to its new home.)

In reality, though, the wall was poorly installed. (I really should have taken close-up pictures, but you can see the gap between the wall and the rock. Up close you can see the board beneath the stone through that gap. It looks like it was just never properly finished. I think that will be a recurring theme with this house.)

Another deciding factor is that we really want to have a wood burning stove in the house to help heat it in the winter. This fireplace is a gas stove that is really just there for aesthetics rather than heat. Plus, is just doesn't look safe.

I also think Beau probably just wanted to tear down a wall.

Betsy and I took a trip up the mountain to Starbucks and when we returned Beau had done a number on the stone. While he took Little Man down the mountain, she and I tried to finish up the removal and dumped the stone in the dumpster. We then started removing screws. When the wall was built, it was framed, plywood was installed over the framing, and wire mesh was screwed in to the plywood. With little exaggeration, I can say nearly a million screws were used. The mesh then held the mortar and stone.

We found a few little surprises when the wall came down. I was seriously convinced that there would be a dead body or something behind the wall. (Hey, I taught Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" to ninth graders for years and years. That makes it way less weird.) The biggest surprise after not finding a body was that there were two outlets behind the wall. They were totally inaccessible. While I'm not really up on electrical code, I'm pretty sure that is totally against it. To me it seems like a bit of a fire hazard.

The holes in the wall at the ceiling were because the wall there was black. It wasn't clear if the blackness was from smoke damage or mold, so Beau tore a chunk of the wall out. (After seeing the damage in the west wall, we really wanted to make sure that there was no moisture behind that wall, too.) The insides looked good, so we're pretty sure that the blackness was smoke damage.

The other big surprise was that there was no gas shut-off valve at the source, so we weren't able to unhook the fireplace. We'll have to have a professional come out and do that. (Beau would love to do it, but I put my foot down there. Tear down walls, uninstall toilets, whatever. DO NOT mess with anything that can cause a huge explosion. I know, I know, I'm suck a buzz kill.)

We were pretty bummed about that last revelation because we had really hoped we'd get rid of the hulking fireplace and really feel like we'd made progress.

While demolition is way fun, it is always way messy. I did not love the clean-up afterwards. Fortunately, the weather was amazing so we could open doors and windows to air it out Also, we have no almost no furniture. Because of that, cleaning really just entailed mopping the floors a million times and wiping down counters as many times.

Just for comparison, I took this shot of a clean Swiffer Wet Jet mop and one that had made two sweeps through the dust and dirt. It took five of them to get the floor to look sort of clean. Later I mopped on my hands and knees with a rag and Mr. Clean.

Even though it feels like we are only making backwards progress (wait, is that an oxymoron?), I know that getting all of this stuff done now while the house is just an uninhabited shell will make life easier down the road. In all honesty, my head probably would have exploded if we had done the floors, painted and furnished the upstairs and decided to take the wall out in a few years. Quel mess.

Essentially we are creating a blank canvass upon which to paint our mountain masterpiece.

Geesh that was corny.

Soon (a totally relative word, in all honesty), Aunt Betsy will come to visit and instead of the empty shell of a deckless house she will come to a lovely, furnished, finished home that requires no manual labor. I'll be bringing her a drink of her choosing on the deck. Or maybe we'll sip tea or cocoa in front of a roaring fire in the new fireplace.

Looking at it now, that seems so far away...

Any other walls coming down out there in the blogosphere? Anyone else finding scary code-breaking stuff in a house you're renovating?  

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